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Sunday, June 16th 2019

Venture Challenge™

San Diego State University

Eligibility Rules & Guidelines

Student and Academic Level Eligibility

Teams competing in the Venture Challenge™ business plan competition must include at least one currently enrolled graduate student from the university being represented who will also be present at the competition. Enrollment must be for the current academic year, defined as running from September 1st of a particular calendar year through August 31st of the following calendar year.

Students who graduated in prior academic years are not eligible to participate, with the exception of:

  • Students who both wrote their business plans for academic credit and graduated during the preceding summer
  • International students from universities operating on different academic year parameters

Students involved in the Executive or Evening MBA programs are eligible in the next competition season following their graduation.

Academic Discipline

The competition is not exclusive to business school students; students of any discipline are eligible. Executive MBA students are also eligible.

Academic Level

Undergraduate students are welcome to compete as part of a team; however, each team must have at least one graduate student.

Team Size

The maximum number of students on a competition team is five (5); although there is no restriction on the total size of the venture's founding team.

Student Involvement

The competition is for student created, managed, and owned ventures. In other words, students must (1) have played a major role in conceiving the venture, (2) have key management roles in the venture, and (3) own significant equity in the venture. In general, a member of the student team should be CEO, COO, or President of the venture, or members of the student team should occupy 50% or more of the functional area management positions that report directly to the CEO, COO, or President. Members of the student team should also own 50% or more of the equity allocated to the management team and key advisors. An equity position of less than 50% of the equity allocated to the management team and key advisers, and/or less than 20% of the total equity of the venture will be suspect and require the students to show evidence that they were a major cause in the venture creation. One objective of this rule is to exclude ventures formed and managed by non-students who have given token equity to MBAs for writing their business plan.

Team Composition

This is a competition for graduate students, and at least one graduate student must be a member of the venture's startup management team. A team with a few undergraduates will be allowed to compete, and the undergraduates may participate fully. All graduate students, not just MBA candidates, are eligible to participate in the competition. This includes executive MBAs. Non-students may be members of the venture's management team and may participate in planning the venture. However, only students may participate in the competition. In other words, only students may present the plan and answer questions from the competition judges.

A presenting team will be designated as either a graduate or undergraduate competition eligible team based upon their first entry into a business plan competition. Once a company or team competes in an undergraduate competition it is disqualified from Venture Challenge.


Ventures with revenues in prior academic years are excluded. Ventures that have raised investment capital from sources outside of friends and family before the current academic year are excluded. However, both student and other team members may have worked on an idea or new technology in previous academic years or in the case of the student team members even prior to entering graduate school, provided that their venture had no revenues and raised no outside investment capital, and/or did not undertake any other formal startup activities prior to the current academic year. Ventures that have generated revenue or raised equity capital from sources other than the members of the student team before the current academic year are excluded.

The competition is for new, independent ventures in the seed, start-up, or early growth stages. Generally excluded are the following: buy-outs, expansions of existing companies, real estate syndications, tax shelters, franchises, licensing agreements for distribution in a different geographical area, and spin-outs from existing corporations. Licensing technologies from universities or research labs is not excluded and is encouraged assuming they have not been commercialized previously. All ventures must be seeking outside equity capital.

The business plan must be prepared under faculty supervision. Ideally, the business plan will be prepared for credit in a regularly scheduled course or as an independent study. The business plan must represent the original work of members of the team. All universities with participating teams are strongly encouraged to send faculty or other university advisors to the team to most, if not all, all of the competitions in which their teams compete.

Past Venture Challenge Competitors

Ventures may compete only once in Venture Challenge. Individual students who have competed in Venture Challenge in the past may return only if they compete under a new company and a materially different business concept. However, any student that competed as a member of a team that won first, second, or third place at Venture Challenge is ineligible to compete again.

Awards Ceremony Attendance

All student teams competing in Venture Challenge are required to attend the Awards Ceremony held on the final day of the competition. If at least one representative of a team is not present at the Awards Ceremony, the team is automatically disqualified and is ineligible to be named an award winner or receive any cash, trophies, plaques, or other prizes.

Dropping Out of a Competition

If a team withdraws or does not compete in a competition after accepting a bid the team and university will be subject to disqualification from competing in Venture Challenge for that year and the following year, a two year ban. Penalties will be determined by Venture Challenge directors, who will inform the university in writing of their sanctions.

Adapted from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

Entrepreneurship Distinction
  • Top 25 among America's Most Entrepreneurial Universities 2015.
  • Top 10 in list of "America's Best Colleges for Entrepreneurs."
We don't like to live in the past.
~ Jerry Halamuda, SDSU'72
   President and Founder
   ColorSpot Nurseries


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The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University serves SDSU students, entrepreneurs and business leaders through entrepreneurial curriculum, workshops, internships, resources and events. For information browse the Programs section of our website, subscribe to the Lavin Center Calendar and sign up for the Center's Entrepreneurial Fuel Newsletter. Entrepreneur resources such as the Lavin Center resume guide, marketing and business planning tools and more can be found in the Resources section of our site.

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